Today I’m going to review 5 of the most popular Japanese textbooks available for Japanese language learning beginners. There is a ton of Japanese textbooks on the market, and there are a few that show up in nearly every best selling list.
The Mirai textbook series is HUGELY popular in Australia, especially for high school students. This textbook is pretty much a high school teacher's dream. It’s simple to use, and the sentence structures it teaches are then exemplified in real-life examples. Here, in Mirai 6, there is a whole chapter on finding work in Japan, it provides words like “fluent” “job application” and “hourly pay”, as well as using these words in very realistic job advertisements and resumes. I don’t have many critics of this textbook, and I thoroughly enjoy working with it for young (teenage) students.
Ahh, Genki. It’s the time-tested, trusted, safe purchase, right? Tons of fantastic reviews and many people have already encountered this textbook over the years. If you’ve already searched the internet for Japanese textbooks, Genki’s foothold in the market will likely mean that it is already pencilled into your “maybe” list. In my opinion, Genki was made specifically for classroom-style learning. With activities that are reliant on having others studying at the same pace and time as you. If you’re a solo-learner, I find this textbook a bit slow-moving and takes a million years to get through anything actually valuable
JAPANESE FOR BUSY PEOPLE
Japanese for busy people seems like the most perfect textbook for well… “busy people”. But really, this textbook is incorrectly titled. The entire textbook is written nearly exclusively for business-use Japanese. If this is your goal, then fabulous. Otherwise, it’s not that great.
J-BRIDGE FOR BEGINNERS
So, this was my personal textbook throughout my university years. The teacher who prescribed this textbook was herself, Japanese. I have never understood this textbook. Even now, that I’d consider myself sort of proficient, it still makes no sense to me. The texts are so difficult to read, I can’t find where it teaches the conjugations and even then, they are explained in an odd way with no cutbacks to real life.
Finally, we have the textbook that inspired me to love Japanese in the very beginning. From this book, I began my love of real-life conversation and colloquial Japanese speech. I was immediately drawn to how real it felt, how applicable it felt to my life. There was a mix of business use, a light interaction with keigo (honorific speech) and tons of natural vocabulary, including words like ‘umm’, and ‘great, I got it!’ that I didn’t see in any other textbook
This leads me to where I developed my own range of Japanese language learning materials. Japanese, much like every other language in the world, cannot be learnt solely through a textbook, through reading passages or from writing out exercises. While those are useful things to help you understand sentence structures and patterns, translating that to the real world would be nearly impossible, due to inflection, speaking speeds, and the diverse amount of slang and casual speech patterns. So, textbooks might get you a foot in the door, or they might help you understand a couple of written sentences, but in order to learn a real-life language, it’s important to learn it from a real-life person. Otherwise, you’ll end up speaking and sounding just like a textbook.